Struggling with having writing conferences with each child every week? Every writer has different needs. Your writing lessons may not address the individual needs of all your writer’s when they are all at different stages of their writing development. Yet, your grade level curriculum forces you to move on and “teach to the middle”.
Want to learn how to meet the needs of each of your students? It’s easy to differentiate your instruction when you conference with your writers. I’ve got it all figured out for you. You simply need a routine and get yourself organized. Read on to learn how.
Time management is key here, and we really don’t have a minute to waste during your 30-50 minute block dedicated to writing. It’s just not possible to meet with every child each day. Don’t put that expectation on yourself.
Time Saving Tips During Writing Conferences
Bonding vs. Instruction
Please, don’t be burdened with the guilt that you have to connect emotionally with each child’s writing piece as you sit beside them. Yes, their writing helps you learn about them, but for the sake of helping your students become better writers, it is definitely okay to focus on the skills, rather than the bond.
You can always revisit the content of their writing when they are in the publishing or sharing stage or through conversations at morning meeting, transitions and recess. Of course, if something is alarming address it right away! But don’t spend precious conference time on trying to bond with your students. As much as we love them, you might find yourself in an everlasting conversation about their baby sister and sibling rivalry. Just saying.
Don’t be afraid to scan their writing. Your students know you can read fast because as an adult, you are an expert reader. Remind them of this as you sit with them. Refrain from feeling the guilt of not taking the time to truly read every word as you conduct your conferences. The kids don’t know any better.
If you can get the gist of their writing without having to decipher every phonetically spelled word, that is ok too.
Tell the kiddos that these are quick conferences to find what they need to work on next. How can they grow as a writer?
Go to Them on Wheels!
Calling your writer’s up to your teacher’s desk is convenient for you since everything you need is “write” there. However, your student needs to collect their writing folder, journal, pencil etc and make their way to your desk. They are going to drop things, forget things and this just takes away from the time you have to conference with more students. Learning how to transition quickly from conference to conference is going to make your job a lot easier.
Use your teacher chair on wheels to roll from one student to the next. I splurged and bought a cute stool from Home Goods. It just makes it more fun for me and its so convenient to move forward to the next writing conference without waiting for the child to get their supplies ready. Everything they need is already at their desk.
This is also helpful because you will be in close proximity to all your students. You will be amidst all your students and can quickly swivel to address students who are off task, and quickly swivel back to your conference.
Have Everything You Need at Hand
Don’t waste precious time during your conferences looking for what you need. Invest in a rollie cart. I got mine from Michaels and it has lots of shelving to organize everything I need during a conference. It’s on wheels, like my stool so it just goes with me from student to student.
Supplies you might want to include on the Drive-by Writing Conference Cart:
- Mini lesson anchor charts
- Hole puncher
- Date stamper
- Writing papers and book templates
- Post-its (for your modeling lesson)
- Alphabet and phoneme charts
- Time order and Transition words and phrases
- If you like how I decorated my cart, you can find the decals HERE.
Here’s How Drive-by Writing Conferences Work:
Observe Their Writing and Identify a Writing Skill that Needs Improvement
As you read their writing, look for what stands out first. You can quickly scan their writing without having to really analyze the content. Content comes later with your advanced writers.
Writing Conferences with your Emergent Writers
Focus on basic writing skills with emerging writers. At a quick glance, you will know what they need when you see it.
- Is their writing hard to read because they are not using finger spaces? Then show them the anchor chart to teach them how finger spaces help their reader understand their writing.
- Are they including all sounds of the word? Then teach them how to stretch a word out in slow motion and write down every sound they hear.
- Are the using the word wall to help them spell sight words? Remind them!
- Some writers simply need to refer to the word wall or sound wall to find the sounds they need to use. Provide them with an alphabet poster or vowel chart.
- Are you having a hard time figuring out where one thought ends and another starts? Then they need to work on punctuation.
Writing Conferences with your Advanced Writers
What about those students who can do it all? Those are the ones I personally find the most challenging and fun!
- Are they using the word “and” a lot? Introduce them to time order and transition words. As well as punctuation.
- Are they writing about many topics at once? Teach them how to stick to one main idea.
- The student who can publish a writing piece quickly, but perhaps their handwriting is hard to read. That is their goal!
- Or maybe they don’t spend much time with the illustrations, teach them how to color and stay in the lines. It might just be that simple!
- Does their writing lack content or description? Have your fluent writers add more details. Teach them to add a feeling sentence or to add adjectives before their nouns. Or teach them about adverbs!
Model Using Writing Anchor Charts and Post-its
Have a set of writing anchor charts close by. I have created a complete set of writing anchor charts that address many skills for the primary grades. Go over the anchor chart encouraging them to look closely at the visuals.
Then you can simply model that writing skill with post-its. If your student needs to use finger spaces, demonstrate how you write a sentence and space out each word by using your finger. Write this down on a post-it and stick in on their writing piece or on the cover of their writing folder or journal. Make it visible.
Goal Setting to Hold Your Students Accountable
Many teachers struggle with this throughout their teaching career. Ever try to keep anecdotal records to help you remember where you left off with each child? There are many beautiful forms to record your conferences but those were for the teacher alone and not visible to the child, and time consuming.
Want to help the children remain accountable for their writing growth? Try assigning writing goals and attaching them to the cover of their writing folder. They are visible to them every time they settled down to write.
As you “drive-by”, their writing goals are visible to you so you can encourage them to meet their writing goal even if you are not meeting with them that day.
If you want to learn more of the why and how I use writing goals, you can visit this blog post.
Have everything you need?
Want a set of writing goal cards and matching anchor charts? They are very helpful as you conference with your students. You can organize them in a binder and use them for your differentiated mini lessons. Then provide them with a mini version of that anchor chart to remind them of what they need to focus on in order to be a stronger writer. You can find them HERE.
Differentiation at its best! Definitely an accomplishment that I am proud of in my teaching career. It took forevs for me to get to this point, so I am happy to share what I learned and what I created to you differentiate your writing instruction too!
Oh My Goodness! You did it! And so will they! #teacherwin
Need a writing conference cart of your own? Download this décor kit at The K Files teacher shop on Teacher Pay Teachers. I bought the cart you see in these photos at Michaels. Definitely a game changer.
You can teach to the whole group, but your writing conferences are key to meeting the individual needs of each of your writers.
I do hope you can take away a tip or two today after reading this blog post. Please consider subscribing if you found this helpful, I have many more tips to share!
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